So what's to be gained from the examinability testing? Well, it's hard to say. Seeing just how much a non-examinable item undermines the strength of a routine, it definitely keeps me moving in the direction of avoiding tricks that just beg to be examined. I just have no way of performing them in a way that is conducive with the way I interact with spectators. "Put it in your pocket and go on to another trick," is bad advice in general, but it's particularly shitty advice for the social magician. If someone showed you something and then put it away at the peak of your interest in it, you'd think they were a tease (at best) or an imbecile.
"Put it in your pocket," is a magician-centric gambit. I'm the magician, and I decide what you can and can't see. I make the rules because I'm special. That's an attitude you can maybe pull off as a professional, as an amateur it's not a good look.
I definitely see the appeal of these highly-visual tricks. You'll watch a trailer for them and they'll get a great reaction. And they'll get a great reaction for you too... right up until the person says, "That's crazy! Let me see that." That's the part the trailers don't show. The part where you slink away, stuffing your gimmicked pack of gum in your pocket.
This isn't about convincing people you're a real magician, it's just about giving them the strongest experience and not giving them easy outs.
Examinability is not the be-all and end-all for me. I'd rather use a normal invisible deck than almost any ungaffed version I've seen. But that's because the gaffed one looks much better and (I've never had someone ask to look at an invisible deck before. It's not a trick about the deck.) So examinability is just one factor. But the testing showed that it's not a factor that's as easily dismissible as some like to make it.
If you love these visual tricks, save the unexaminable ones for Skype and FaceTime. That's a perfectly valid performing arena. I talked more about this in one of my first posts on this subject, "Youtube Magic in the Real World."
Did I ever show you these cool card clips that friend-of-the-site, Les Allen, made me?
I don't think so. Hey... check out these cool card clips friend-of-the-site, Les Allen, made me.
They feature part of the damask pattern that was on the endpapers in the Jerx, Volume One and the first Jerx Deck.
I used to not be a fan of card clips, but then I had a change of heart. I used to think it was dorky. Like, "Look at me. I'm Mr. Magician and I have a special clip for my cards." But then I realized that carrying around a deck of cards was already a dorky thing to do, so it's not like I was avoiding the dork factor. And, a card clip is at least mildly-interesting. Most people haven't seen one. And with one on your cards, you kind of provide a gentler incline to get into a trick in a casual situation.
What I mean is this... if I'm at a cafe and I put a deck of cards on the table, someone might ask, "Why do you have cards with you." And then my first response is going to be something related to magic. But with a card clip their first question is, "What is that?" And then I explain that it's a clip they make to protect playing cards. Then they ask why I have the cards and I can get into that. The transition is a little smoother. You don't go straight from zero to magic. And I found that I'd rather start a conversation answering the question, "What is that?" rather than the question, "Why do you carry around a deck of cards."
Surprisingly, multiple people have written me asking what I think of this product from Penguin. It's an empty gum box that you put gum in. The box says "Instant Psychic" gum.
It's not a trick. It doesn't do anything. According to the ad copy, "To get ready for a particularly difficult trick. Make a show of popping a piece of psychic gum in your mouth." It's just a presentational conceit.
And I'm fine with that. This blog is full of presentational conceits. The problem with this one is that it's just going to come across as a gag. (Which isn't a problem if you want it to come across as a gag. But gags are for professional magicians. They're corny for amateurs.)
Sometimes I'll see people who try and do something interesting presentationally, but they treat it as a goof, so it loses whatever intrigue it might have possibly provided. They don't want to commit to it 100% because they're afraid it will make them look silly. So they half commit. But it's the half-committing that actually makes you look silly. This is true of almost everything in life.
So, while I can see the benefits of this prop to the professional, close-up performer who wants to do it as a "bit," it's kind of a half-committed way to genuinely pursue this presentation for the amateur.
If there was a gum that somehow increased empathy in a way that could mimic psychic phenomenon, it wouldn't come in a professionally printed package marked "psychic gum." Instead it would be some loose gum that came in a plastic baggie and you had to order it from some sketchy Silk Road-esque type site. It would be delivered in a plain brown envelope.
You can do this, of course. You can mail yourself some gum and keep the envelope on the table, and wait until you have a visitor. Be skeptical. "Do you want to try this out?" Explain how it's supposed to work. "It's $5 a piece, so if you don't really want to try it, then don't. I'll save it for someone else. Whatever you do, don't swallow it." Maybe you go first and you're able to read their mind. Then they go and they can tell you what number you wrote down or what card you're thinking of.
That could be a fun interaction and one that could genuinely screw with someone's head at least a little. Was it all theater? Or was there something more going on there?
Maybe Penguin can start selling The Jerx Presents: Loose Gum in a Baggie.
For whoever runs the GLOCC (The Global League of Clowns and Comedians) I think we have someone for you to kick out.
Ellusionist is now selling decks of cards without boxes because... reasons.
Geraint Clarke, from Ellusionist, sent out an email announcing this groundbreaking product that included this confusing declaration:
"I am, without doubt, the most hated man by playing card producers. HERE'S WHY...
I never use a tuck box. I open a deck, throw the tuck, the jokers, ad cards and gaffs away immediately."
Well... I think there's maybe some doubt that those actions would make you "the most hated man by playing card producers."
So you pay for the cards?
So at this point, the card company has your money.
And then you go home and throw out the card-case and the jokers.
So if you did want a card case or jokers for something, you'd have to go buy a whole other deck.
Mm-hmm. Can you imagine how much they must despise me? What matters most to Reginald J. Bicycle, president of the US Playing Card Company, is that I'm nestling the deck back in its case every night... but I don't!
My favorite line from the email is this...
"Those who know me know that I always have a deck in my hand. For performing at gigs and walking down the street doing cardistry."
Okay. You're all deputized now. Someone needs to capture some video footage of Geraint "walking down the street doing cardistry." I don't care if it's professionally shot or if it looks like that old bigfoot footage. I need to see this. I imagine him smiling and nodding at everyone. "Hey Marsha, those petunias look phenomenal!" He's got a bit of a skip in his step. Meanwhile he's doing that dopey cut where you're holding a packet of cards under your chin.
Over the course of 12 hours, we performed for 36 people in groups of three. Each group would see four different effects performed by four different performers in an intimate, close up setting.
The effects were:
1. A color-changing deck routine.
2. A coin trick (three silver coins change to three copper coins)
3. A Rubiks cube trick (an instantaneous solve sort of thing)
4. A mentalism trick.
With the first three effects, the objects that had just been magically altered (deck, coins, cube) could all be examined. (With the mentalism trick, there wasn't really anything to be examined. We included it because we thought we might need something that was constant among the groups when analyzing the data, but that didn't turn out to be the case. For the purposes of this write-up, you can ignore the mentalism trick.)
[Note: The point of this exercise was to look at the importance of examinability in regards to the object of the effect. The thing that changes state in some manner. Not the tangential items used in an effect. I say this to preemptively avoid the emails that are like, "Oh, so you're saying I need to have the sharpie examined during the ambitious card?" No, dummy, I'm not.]
Each trick was performed by the same person each time. The only difference in performance from group to group is that half the time the object was handed out for examination and half the time it wasn't. At no point did we actually say, "Please, examine this deck of cards," (for example). Instead it would just be a casual action at the end of the effect to hand out the object(s) to one or more members of the audience.
Some of the groups got to handle each object after each effect, some of the groups didn't get to see any of the objects, and with some groups they examined some and not others.
The Rating Scale
This is, unexpectedly, one of the harder parts of this type of testing. Often, if you ask people to rate things on a scale of 1-10, almost everything will be a 7, 8, or 9. I'm not sure why this is. It may come from school where if you got a 60% you did terrible. We've found we sort of have to train people out of that mindset so that there's a large enough scale to compare things on. If you don't, everything gets compressed. Ask them to rate a 1 in 3 multiple out trick and they give it a 7; ask them to rate vanishing a lear jet in front of them, and they give it a 9. It works for them because they think 7=ok, but not great and 9=outstanding. But we need a more finely tuned scale.
So when we asked people to rate a trick based on "how amazing or impossible it seems" we emphasized that they should make use of the full scale, with a 50 being pretty decent. The spiel we gave went something like this, "Since you've never judged how 'amazing/impossible' something is before, we want to give you some guidelines. If the trick doesn't fool you, then it gets a zero. If a trick fools you, but you think you have a good idea how it might be done, then it would probably fall somewhere in the first third of the scale. If it it completely fools you and you have no idea whatsoever how it was accomplished, then you would likely rank it near the top of the scale. If it's somewhere in-between—maybe you have some vague ideas, but you were still pretty fooled—then it would probably be in the middle for you." This may sound a little too leading to you, but the alternative is to give them no instruction, which we've found doesn't work well.
In all they were asked to rate each effect on three criteria on a scale of 1 to 100.
1. How amazing or impossible the trick was.
2. How likable the performer was.
3. Their overall enjoyment of the performance.
The only thing we were concerning ourselves with was the first question. The other two were just to flesh things out so undo focus wasn't put on the initial question.
Here's something I thought we might find going into this testing. I thought we might find that handing out something for examination would just increase how "impossible" an effect seemed by a small amount. My logic was this: either way they know it's a trick, so it's not like being able to examine something is going to all of a sudden make them it's some kind of miracle.
Well... it might not turn your effect into a miracle, but based on the results we got, I can't imagine there's much you can do that will increase the strength of an effect more than giving out the magically altered item to be freely handled and examined by the spectator. The numbers were not close.
Average Score for how Impossible/Amazing the Trick Seemed
Coin Trick - Unexamined - 58
Coin Trick - Examined - 77
Increase of 32%
Color Changing Deck - Unexamined - 56
Color Changing Deck - Examined - 85
Increase of 52%
Rubiks Cube Trick - Unexamined - 39
Rubiks Cube Trick - Examined - 82
Increase of 110%
Over the course of the day, 57 tricks were performed and "unexamined." Of those 57, only 8 of them scored above a 70. Above 70 is what we described as the "I don't even have a vague idea how this could be done," range. When the objects could be examined, they all averaged above that threshold.
Why did the Rubik's trick jump up so much? I'm not really sure because we didn't do a real breakdown with the people in regards to why they rated the things the way they did. My theory though is that when it comes to a coin, the audience understand that it might be suspect, but they probably don't have any good ideas how. But with a Rubik's cube that goes from mixed up to solved in an instant, there are potentially many possibilities. Perhaps there are flaps on the side, or something that slides, or maybe all the colors are projected from some internal computer (who knows?). Whatever their thought process was, the low score for the unexamined performances suggests the people watching had come up with some explanation that they thought was reasonable. Those who got to examine the cube couldn't fall back on that explanation.
I think it's like that Simon Aronson quote: "There’s a world of difference between a person’s not knowing how something is done versus his knowing it can’t be done.” I don't think they watched the cube trick and thought "I know how it's done," but I think they had ideas how it might be done. But if you give them the cube at the end, it hits home that such a thing can't be done with a normal Rubik's cube (or deck, or coin, or whatever).
The Unexpected Result
While I had assumed being able to take a look at the object of a magic effect would make the trick more powerful, I was a little surprised by the magnitude of the difference. But another surprise came when my friend looked at the scores given for "overall enjoyment." When comparing the examined tricks to the non-examined tricks, he found that examination increased the overall enjoyment score by almost 25% on average. And that's pretty significant because they didn't get the speech about using the full 1-100 scale for enjoyment, so most of the "enjoyment" scores were already pretty decent to begin with. So not only does examination make a trick more powerful and deceptive, it makes it more enjoyable.
Is it more enjoyable because it seems more impossible? Is it more enjoyable because the magic is closer and literally more tangible? I'm not sure. And I'm not sure it matters.
The next time someone suggest examinability doesn't add to the impact of an effect, ask them if they would do Anniversary Waltz if they couldn't give the card out at the end. Of course not. It would surprise no one to find that Anniversary Waltz is twice as strong a trick because you hand out the card. Honestly, it's probably 10 times stronger.
Is there any trick where a magically altered item can be handed out that you would choose not to? Probably not, certainly not in a casual close-up performance, because you realize the impact it has. But then we delude ourselves into thinking, "Well, when I change this credit card into a dollar bill, I can just put it in my pocket and that's good enough. No one will want to see if if I use my trusty AUDIENCE MANAGEMENT."
Now, part of the reason Anniversary Waltz is so much stronger when it's examined is that it has such an "obvious" alternate solution i.e., the two cards are stuck together with something. But as technology advances these "obvious" solutions are just going to proliferate. So combatting them is going to require more effort than it did 150 years ago when you just had to rule out magnets, mirrors, and leaches (or whatever else they used to use).
As time passes, more and more people will see a piece of visual close-up and think, "I didn't know how that was done, but I didn't get to look at it, so it probably just used some technology I don't understand." And that will be explanation enough for a lot of people.
As we continue down that path, the only way to get people to feel they've truly seen something extraordinary is to leave them, at the end, holding something ordinary.
I was in New York City about a month ago for another round of focus group testing and I wasn't quite feeling it. The previous round had been something of a flop, at least in regards to producing any results that I found enlightening or interesting. So I wasn't as enthused going into this session as I usually am. Then, as I was walking down 7th Avenue the night before the testing, I saw this...
And I thought to myself, "That's a sign!" Yeah, no shit it's a sign, Andy. No, I mean it's a sign. Why else put this dull fact on one of these phone charging stations unless it was to inspire me? There's no reason such a humdrum piece of information should be broadcast otherwise. I'm sure the guy who collated the #LinkNYCfacts would argue, "Hey, we never said these were fun facts." He's got a point, but I still chose to see it as a sign. Life is more fun that way.
So it was with renewed vigor I went into the testing.
I've long wondered about the impact examinability has on the strength of an effect. In my experience it seems to make tricks significantly more powerful, and yet you hear from very well established magicians that it's not an issue. Have a trick that can't be examined? Their advice is, "When you're done with the trick, put it away and pull out another trick." They call this "audience management."
This is such a magician's way of thinking. "They want to look at this coin that just changed into a different coin? Well, if I put it in my pocket and go on to another trick, then they can't look at it. Problem solved. I've just managed my audience."
How does putting something in your pocket and moving on quell someone's instinct to want to look at it? It doesn't. The hope is just that you make the situation too awkward for them to say, "Hey wait, I wanted to see the coin." So "audience management" in this case is running away like a bitch and winning on a technicality. You don't actually make them not want to examine the object, you just put obstacles in their place so they can't. If that qualifies as audience management then so does this: When the trick is over, throw the coin off a fucking cliff.
Getting rid of something—the "something" that just seconds ago you were begging people to pay attention to—doesn't allay suspicion, it only increases it.
The other thing you'll hear is that if people want to examine something then you just need to work on your presentation. Somehow—and no one has ever really explained how this works—but somehow the presentation will just be so good that people won't have any desire to examine the object of the effect. Does anyone have an example of this mythical type of presentation? Because my experience has been just the opposite. The more engaged someone is with the experience, the more wrapped up in it they get, and the more they're likely to say, "Wait... hold on... let me see that!"
This shouldn't be surprising that the more someone is captivated by your magic, the more they want to touch, see and engage with it, because this is how it works with every other thing in the known universe.
Of course, the extreme example of this type of thinking is when people go full on delusional and say, "People don't ask to examine my props because they think I'm a real magician." Uhmmm... no. No they don't. They just don't care. (See this post for more on this sort of thing.)
As the world evolves, the need for examinability grows. 150 years ago, if you changed one bill to another, the spectator might think, "That bill must have a secret flap so it can look like another bill." And if you could demonstrate there was no secret flap in some way, then maybe you didn't have to hand out the bill, because you've just disproved the one known possibility in 1870.
See, this is part of a theory I had.... In 1870, you probably felt like you had a pretty good grasp on the world around you, and when you saw something you couldn't explain, it undoubtedly felt pretty magical. But these days, we see things we can't explain all the time. We use technology we can't explain on a daily basis, and we know there is much more out there that we're not tuned into. So now if someone sees one bill change to another, they might think, "Is it a flap? Color-changing ink? Digital ink? Some other technology I don't even know about?" And it's not until the bill is in their hands, and they see it's just an ordinary bill, that it goes from looking magical to really feeling magical.
But that was just a theory I had. And while I disagreed with most of the stuff I'd read about the subject of examinability, I still didn't really know how much of a difference it makes to the overall impact of a routine. Is it a little or a lot? Is it enough that it makes sense to restructure an effect in order to make it examinable? It seemed to make a significant difference to me in my experience, but maybe I was just imagining it.
So that's what we were in NYC doing: trying to quantify—at least to some degree—the affect that being able to examine the object that just went through some kind of magical transformation has on the impact of the effect.
More details and the results of the testing on Wednesday.
On Wednesday I wrote about the old trick where you have a coin on your hand, you cover it with a napkin or a handkerchief, and it disappears. The method is that the audience is allowed to feel that the coin is still there right before it vanishes, and the last person to feel it's there is in on it and he steels the coin out from your hand.
If you want to take this to the next level, a little game you can do with your friends is have the person who steals out the coin also put something into your hand at the same time. The game is that you don't know what they're going to put in your hand, so you have to try and identify what it is, and then justify why the coin changed into it for the other spectators. It's part magic trick, part improvisation game, all stupid.
[You feel the item and think you've identified what it is.] "Do you know they charge 50 cents for pickles at the burger place down the street? I save money by changing my quarters directly into... gherkins!" [Whisk away handkerchief.]
That's an actual example. And I'd say that's probably one of the better justifications we came up with, believe it or not. It's not easy to come up with something in a second or two when someone has placed a button, a screw, or a used condom in your hand.
Here's a billion dollar idea for my hot female readership. Go take this and run with it and become the biggest magician since Merlin.
The idea? A slutty female mentalist who bills herself as:
Alakazam Magic has something called the Alakazam Online Academy which is pretty much their version of online magic lectures. The difference being that they are sometimes devoted to a specific subject, not just the general magic of the performer lecturing.
They're getting a little bit of shit on the Cafe because originally they said that the lectures would not be available for purchase after the live airing. You didn't have to watch it live (you could download it and watch it later) but you had to pre-order it.
Hey Andy, that's moronic.
Oh, I know. And if you had half a brain you would recognize it's a policy that wouldn't last. Why it was implemented in the first place is beyond me. But they've done away with that idea. Now anyone can buy it whenever. This has upset some early buyers who feel Alakazam used FOMO to get them to buy something they might have waited on otherwise. (You can close the Urban Dictionary tab you had open for "Thot." FOMO is Fear Of Missing Out. What? You can't keep up with my hip slang? Sorry, old man. Me and my 14-year-old bros are going to the park to dab to EDM and vape some Gogurt. Sayonara bitch! )
I'm going to try and save the people at Alakazam some time and energy going forward. Here is how they advertise their online academy.
Our Online lessons are broadcast live directly in to your Alakazam account so you will be able to ask questions in the chatroom and interact during the lesson
Spaces on each live course are limited to ensure as many questions as possible are answered during the live lesson via our integrated chat feature.
Do you know why Penguin and At the Table dumped having people from home "ask questions"? Because it sucked. All it did was slow things down and ruin the momentum of the event. It's like being in school where you're forced to learn at the pace of the dumbest kid in class. It's not a selling point.
99 time out of 100, if people have specific questions about what's transpiring, they could get the answer by replaying what they just watched. And if you're looking for general questions, then solicit them before the event so you can curate them and not have them lost amongst the terrible questions.
Do what Penguin does and put a knowledgable magician as host so if something is glossed over or accidentally unexplained, he can pause the proceedings and get more information about it. You don't need to open it up to everyone.
Of course, you'll soon realize that if you're not taking live questions you don't need to do the event live. Yup. Bingo. You don't. Save yourself the trouble.
You're eventually going to come to these conclusions anyway, I'm just trying to save you time.
Can you believe Bill Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting women? Crazy. You never know who the real monsters are.
According to the prosecution, Cosby was an expert at drugging women's drinks. They say he could have only gotten that good under the tutelage of someone who is a master of deception and being around beverages. I'm not sure who they were referring to or what they meant by th--
(Thanks to JM for the pic.)
Speaking of the Coz and Magic, below is a video of him with Doug Henning doing a rope trick. If you told someone, "You know why Doug Henning is my favorite magician? His kind heart. Did you know that during every show he would invite a mentally retarded person on stage and do a trick with them? It's true. Then he would donate a portion of his salary to people with intellectual disabilities. In fact, here's a video of him working with just such a person...." If you told someone that and they watched the first minute of the video below, there is not a chance in hell that they would doubt you.
Do you know Bill Cosby's favorite magic gimmick?
When people talk of the most valuable tools for a magician to have, they usually talk about a thumbtip or a marked deck or something. But in my experience, when it comes to creating small miracles, the most useful weapon in a magician's arsenal is a magic wingman.
"Wingman" singular, is a bit of a misnomer. Ideally you want a small group of people you can call on to help out with your effects and for whom you make yourself available to help with theirs. Similar to your 100 trick repertoire, crafting your little syndicate of deception should be an ongoing project of growing and refining your crew.
To be clear, I'm not talking about creating a group of magicians who go around performing tricks together like the it's the goddamn reboot of Totally Hidden Extreme Magic. I'm talking about creating a resource of like-minded individuals who are willing to help each other out with the execution of tricks and experiences.
I first learned the value of a wingman by being one, not by having one. I remember reading a trick in a beginners book as a kid. It's a trick where a coin disappears from under a handkerchief. The magician places the coin on his hand, then covers it with a handkerchief. The spectators can feel the coin underneath the handkerchief to confirm it's still there. And then—with a snap of his fingers or an entreaty to Christ himself (whatever type of Imp the magician prefers)—the handkerchief is whipped away and the coin is gone. And it's truly gone. It's nowhere on the magician.
The method, as most of you know, is that the last spectator to confirm the coin is under the handkerchief actually steals the coin away. When I read this trick as a kid I desperately wanted to perform it. But not as the magician. I wanted to be the guy who steals the coin and then acts dumbfounded with everyone else. That, to me, seemed much more fun.
Ever since that time, I've always been willing to be the wingman and I've seen how strong effects can be when the deceptive duties are shared with someone the audience doesn't know is even in on it.
Not everyone who is into magic will be a good wingman. That guy you know from the local magic club who is super ego-driven and believes people really think he has powers, he's not good. You just want to find chill, normal people who are in this for fun, not validation.
The one rule we have amongst my group is that as long as you're available and the request isn't onerous in some way, then we just automatically agree to help each other out. And we'll pretty much do whatever is asked. That way it doesn't have to be an issue where we're like, "Hey, do you think maybe if you're free on Sunday you could possibly help me out with this idea I have? If not, no big deal. But if it's feasible could you mull it over and maybe consider it? If it's the sort of thing you'd be okay with?" We're already committed to help each other, so we don't have to renegotiate everything each time we want to try something. It's just like, "Are you free Sunday? Okay, here's what I need." No one ever feels taken advantage of because everyone is available for everyone else. You're not constantly being asked to give up your night for someone else, but maybe a dozen times a year or so you're asked to help out with some ambitious effect.
Secret Assistant - Having someone who's willing to be at a bar or cafe you're at, or wait outside your house while you toss something out the window, or sit nearby while you're hanging out with someone at the park, or anything along those lines, that's the ultimate weapon. Your spectator views the interaction as being just between you and her, but there is at least one other party helping out who she never factors into the experience.
I've done things like The Look of Love, and Faith from The JAMM #6 with the help of secret assistants. Those tricks are already amongst the strongest tricks you can do in magic, but with the help of a secret assistant they're stronger than at least half of the miracles Jesus accomplished (some of which I'm sure he had help with too).
Less-Secret Assistant - The previous category is about having people help you who aren't noticed by your target audience. The "less-secret" assistant, is similar to the person stealing out the coin from under the handkerchief. Your target audience knows they're there, they just don't realize they're in on it. Ideally, your target audience won't know that the LSA is someone with an interest in magic, but it's not necessary to keep that totally secret.
I have a whole post coming up on uses for a Less-Secret Assistant. It's one of my favorite ways to utilize a wingman (and be utilized as one).
Partner - Sometimes you and your wingman will be performing as equals, like in a two-person code act, or something along those lines. I don't use this wingman relationship that often, but my absolute favorite version of it will appear in Magic for Young Lovers.
Pimp - In improv comedy there is the concept of "pimping" people (yes, I know pimping isn't exclusive to improv comedy, but that's the most direct correlation to what I'm talking about here, not, like, sexual slavery). An example of pimping in improv would be someone walking on stage and someone else saying, "Oh, hey, Bill Cosby, how's it going?" Now the person who walked on stage is forced (pimped) into being Bill Cosby in that scene.
Similarly, you can have your wingman "pimp" you into performing, but it's all a con, because he's setting you up for something you're already prepared for.
This can be as simple as your wingman saying to you and your target audience, "Oh, you have to show them that trick you showed me the other day." This type of thing can create an anticipation for an effect that might not be there if it seems like you are pushing the effect on them (as opposed to having it pulled from you). It would be similar to being out with a couple people and one of them says to you, "Oh my god, you have to see this video Corinne took. It's so funny." That's going to hype up Corinne's video more than if she pitched the video to you herself. And that's even more true with something like magic, because a third party can say, "You have to see this trick Andy performed for me the other day. It's fucking amazing." And that will be intriguing and get people excited. But if I myself say, "You have to watch this trick I'm going to show you. It's fucking amazing." That may come off as egotistical and even turn people off.
Your wingman can also pimp you in a way that sounds more like a challenge. "Okay, but what if she didn't have to take the card out of the deck? What if she just thought of a card." And, of course, you're set up to do the trick with a thought of card.
Cast - One of the more satisfying ways I've found to use a wingman is to have them play a part in some sort of long-running fiction that you've established. For example, in this post I wrote about a presentational tool called The Cast, where you create some characters to help you get into different effects. And these people can recur in your presentations over months or years.
Now, the first time you bring up someone in your "Cast" it can be somewhat believable. Maybe you do have an aunt who used to be a professional psychic, or an old mentor who you visit once a year, or a guy in your office who used to be a male witch. But as time goes on, people may start to think that it's just part of the story you're weaving. This all depends on how outlandish the character you've created is, and the tone you take when talking about the person.
So maybe, over the course of a few months, I've shown someone a few things that "Glenn the male witch," an old co-worker of mine taught me. At this point they're probably pretty sure this is all part of the fantasy.
Then, one day we're at the farmer's market and I whisper to my friend, "Oh, look over there. That's Glenn, that male witch I used to work with. Oh, hey Glenn! Good to see you. You got a lot of herbs there. I'm guessing those aren't for cooking with. Haha. Great seeing you."
And my friend is dumbfounded. Fucking Glenn, the male witch is real!? That sort of thing can be as mindblowing and "magical" as any trick.
So where do you find these people? Look, man, I don't know. I'm not here to tell you how to make friends. Keep an eye out for people with an interest in magic who don't seem like total drips. You don't want to add someone into your little circle of wingmen if they're not the sort of person you'd want to be around in real life anyway. Attend some local magic club meetings or lectures and poach some people from there. Or send some of the people you already know with an interest in magic a link to this article and ask if they'd be interested in establishing this type of arrangement.
The one key thing to keep in mind is that to find willing wingmen you have to be one.
Too often magicians only get together to perform for each other. It's a very safe thing to do because no one is expecting much insofar as presentation goes and if you screw up a trick it doesn't matter because the other person probably already knew how it was done. While it can be fun to dick around for the sake of other magicians, joining forces with them to truly mystify the uninitiated is (in my experience) a significantly more fulfilling way to use these skills.
If you were interested in obtaining the upcoming book, and you wanted to do so via the monthly payment option, you have a few weeks to sign up for it before that option isn't available anymore. So, there's no huge rush, but it is something that will be going away next month.
I've got a couple emails from newer readers asking what X-Communication is. X-Comm is, at this point, a quarterly newsletter that goes to supporters of the site. It originally started out as primarily reviews back in the first season of the site. But now I think of it as the outlet I use when I want to talk about other people's work. So that includes reviews, but also looks at different plots in magic, my personal routines for marketed items, and spotlighting effects from older books/DVDs.
For example, in the Summer issue of X-Comm there will be articles about:
- Some of my favorite effects with a "coincidence" premise
- What tricks I carry in my wallet as of Summer 2018
- A two-phase coin routine that uses a time-gap (as talked about last week) to turn a fairly standard coin effect into a real mind-fuck
The way things have kind of shaken out—and I think this is a pretty good system—is that the best routines and ideas I come up with are saved for the book; my thoughts on other people's commercially available effects are in the newsletter; and this site is for everything else (ideas in development, commentary, testing results, random thoughts, and gifs... mostly gifs).